This week ICANN President and CEO Fadi Chehade made a short visit to my hometown, Cairo. We had several meetings with different groups of youth, academics, civil society, business leaders and top government officials. Discussions were mainly about trends in Internet and technology, and the potential role of Egypt as a leading country in the region.
It started with a visit to the School of Business at the American University in Cairo (AUC) to meet with the Dean, faculty and a group of young entrepreneurs incubated at the AUC’s Venture Lab. We listened with interest to the entrepreneurs explain their businesses and talk to the hopes they have as well as the challenges they face. The conversation was quite open and friendly. The group was eager to get tips for success from Fadi; they seemed to be very passionate about their work and wanted to hear from him how they could excel at what they put their minds to.
Next we were off to CairoICT, Egypt’s largest annual technology conference and tradeshow. The Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Atef Helmy inaugurated the event that was held under the slogan “Building Bridges”. We had the opportunity to meet with the Minister of CIT and the Executive President of the telecom regulatory authority. During the meeting, we were briefed on Egypt’s five-year strategic plan in regards to investments in broadband infrastructure, partnerships with private sector, and expected growth in the CIT sector. We discussed issues related to ICANN and Internet Governance. The Minister reinforced Egypt’s support to the multi-stakeholder approach and willingness to join forces with other stakeholders in their endeavor to evolve the current model. We also discussed a proposal to set up a center for DNS entrepreneurship in Egypt to support the development of the domain name sector in Africa and the Middle East. Strengthening the DNS ecosystem was one of the key recommendations in both the African and the Middle East Engagement Strategies, and this center aims at fulfilling this purpose. We agreed to work on a project document targeting mid 2014 to kick-start the implementation.
Still at CairoICT, and in a brief keynote address, Fadi stressed on the importance of digital economy and the potential of Egypt as it strives to overcome its economic challenges. He unveiled the plan to partner with the telecom regulator to make Egypt the center for DNS technical and entrepreneurial services in Africa and the Middle East. Fadi also alluded to ongoing global efforts to strengthen existing Internet Governance arrangements and evolve multi-stakeholder cooperation to ensure that no single stakeholder, government or non-government, has a dominant role in any decision making process.
Later on in the day, Fadi was invited to a round table organized by Internet Masr, a civil society organization that was established last year in a truly multi-stakeholder fashion to promote engagement of local community in national, regional and international Internet-related processes and activities.
Fadi briefed participants on significant developments taking place around Internet Governance and the need for the existing mechanisms to evolve. He explained why multi-stakeholder governance is the right approach for the Internet, and emphasized that multi-stakeholder engagement should start at home. In response to questions regarding boosting Egypt’s ccTLDs (both ASCII and IDN) as a brand for the country, Fadi encouraged the group to look at best practices of ccTLDs such as (.br). (.se), and (.ae). Further discussion took place on Brazil’s CGI model and the potential of Internet Masr to pursue a similar approach in Egypt.
For the most part, the visit revealed that Egypt, especially the youth community, is still vibrant and moving steadily towards achieving their dreams despite the challenges.